As a proud and committed Jew who has a daughter living near Pittsburgh, I joined all decent and caring people in watching the news and reactions to the tragedy there with outrage and sadness.
The reactions from community and political leaders have been sadly predictable but, in some cases, profoundly revealing.
First and foremost, President Trump made shocking and incredibly telling comments in which he essentially blamed the murdered Jews for being responsible for their own deaths.
Instead of blaming the hate-filled murderer and calling for him to pay for his crimes, Trump made it clear that he believes the leaders of the synagogue were at fault for the mass murder of their own members because it did not have armed guards and massive security present at its Shabbat morning services.
It was his way of deflecting a question about whether we need new guns laws and instead suggesting that an armed security guard with a holstered weapon with the safety on at the synagogue could have prevented an attack from a passionately motivated murderer armed with an assault weapon locked, loaded, and ready to kill from the second he walked in the door.
The fact that the killer–whom Trump dismissed as a “wacko” and a “maniac” instead of accurately calling him out as one of the White Supremacist racist haters who are among the president’s most passionate supporters–was able to legally purchase rapid fire weapons on six separate occasions despite having a long track record as a poster of hateful and racist threats on social media seemed not to be relevant to the President at all.
The fact that this tragedy came just a few days after a man who sent bombs through the mail to a broad range of Democrats and people at CNN and George Soros could be interpreted as a consequence of the clear fact that White haters and bigots now feel newly empowered and moved to action by a President who has frequently encouraged his fans to physically assault and “beat the crap” out of others seemed to be irrelevant to Trump himself.
Instead, as always, he blamed the news media and the victims instead of even being willing to examine the role that his actions and statements might have played.
It was also striking that those who make their living documenting the rapid rise in anti-Semitism were on hand to point out the “nothing has changed” as far as Jew hatred is concerned except for their observations that it is bad and getting worse. But that simplistic assessment completely flies in the face of reality and common sense.
It is true that individual acts of Jew hatred and hatred of all flavors are rising for a variety of reasons. But to obsess on that factoid alone misses the bigger point.
By any measure, Jews in our country have never been more loved by broader society. Never has there been a time when Jews had more power and freedom and safety and security.
Never have Jews been able to live where we want, marry whom we want, work where we want, go to school where we want, and do business with whom we want to the extent that we can today.
And the universal and widespread expressions of grief and support and outrage that have come from all segments of American life in response to this horrific mass murder stand in sharp contrast to the ominous narrative of Jewish victimhood that continues to come from large segments of the Jewish community.
As we were painfully reminded again today, there are still bigots and racists in our country who want to hurt or kill Jews. But these Jew and Muslim and Black and Gay haters are now ostracized by ALL segments of our broader society.
The closest thing to support that these vermin find sadly comes from the President of the United States himself and his “base” of fellow haters and gutless Republican leaders. The hater who has been arrested for sending bombs to people targeted only people who had been harshly criticized by President Trump in recent weeks. And yet Trump denies the obvious suggestion that there is a connection.
And it will never be pointed out by my fellow Jews that many of our most influential Israelist leaders have been in the forefront of spreading poisonous slander about George Soros and others who have the nerve to publicly speak out against the morally and ethically poisonous policies of this Israeli government which can only encourage the Trump lovers such as the man who sent Soros a bomb.
By dismissing the Jew murderer today as a “wacko” and a “maniac” steers away from the truth which is that he is clearly a hater and a bigot–ground where Trump doesn’t even want to set foot much less criticize its practitioners who are among his staunchest supporters. Trump has never directly lashed out against Jews–who overwhelmingly believe he is a horrible president and would never vote for him.
But he routinely uses racist dog whistles and direct attacks on immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims, and his political opponents that seem to send a clear message to his base that he will have their back even if they commit crimes and assault or even murder those who disagree with him politically.
After all, this is the man who once bragged that he could shoot (murder) a person on Fifth Avenue and his base would still love and support him.
So at the end of a horrible and tragic day, the real message is that the level in incivility and the issue of political ideology to justify crimes including murder is the real problem and challenge that we face. And ALL members of targeted groups–not just Jews–are equally at risk in this new environment where ideology conquers all to the point where victims who don’t arm themselves are to blame if they are murdered by White Supremacists and other haters. Unless and until we can honestly discuss what is really going on here, we will be sending our “thoughts and prayers” to the families of targeted victims of all races and religions.
And until we Jews can stop focusing our hatred and anger on Muslims who are no longer a major threat to Jews and others in the U.S. and instead focus on the racists and White Supremacists and Trump enablers with whom we often socialize things will continue to get worse.